November 1, 2010 / 10:16 AM / 7 years ago

Militants seize district in volatile Afghan province

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GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A large number of insurgents attacked and seized a district in an Afghan province Sunday night, officials said, the latest in a string of assaults on foreign and government targets.

Mohammad Yaseen, police commander for Khogyani district in Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul, told Reuters the militants had set fire to the district headquarters and police had suffered casualties defending the area.

Yaseen, who fled to the provincial capital, Ghazni city, did not know the exact number of casualties and said the insurgents were still holding the area.

The Interior Ministry released a statement later Monday saying the provincial police chief had travelled to the area to investigate and that Afghan police had regained control.

Several rooms in the district centre and a police vehicle were destroyed in the attack, it said, but gave no details on casualties.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the Islamist group had carried out the attack, adding the militants had seized police vehicles and weapons.

Taliban militants have seized similar districts in the past

during the night only to retreat a few hours later, but Sunday's raid highlights the fragile security in some of the remote districts around the country.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the beginning of the war more than nine years ago, with a spike in deaths on all sides of the conflict.

The rising casualties among foreign troops and civilians will likely be examined when U.S. President Barack Obama reviews his Afghanistan war strategy in December and at a NATO summit in Lisbon this month.

The Ghazni assault was only the latest in a series of significant attacks by the militants in the past few days.

Saturday, U.S. and other NATO troops killed as many as 90 insurgents during attacks in different parts of Afghanistan, calling in air strikes to repel an assault on a combat outpost in the southeastern province of Paktika.

U.S. troops at the outpost in Paktika came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, gunfire and mortars, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

ISAF initially said 38 insurgents were killed as troops repelled the attack but later said an additional 40 militants may have been killed. Five U.S. troops were wounded.

There was no independent confirmation of the tolls.

There were at least two other attacks in the south and just north of Kabul, Friday and Saturday, Afghan and ISAF officials said.

Foreign and Afghan forces killed another 25 insurgents during an operation in the Darreh-ye-Pech district in northeastern Kunar province, ISAF said Monday.

Additional reporting by Saeed Achakzai in KANDAHAR; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel

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